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Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked…

by Mark Fainaru-Wada, Lance Williams

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3881251,201 (3.67)3
The complete inside story of the shocking steroids scandal that made headlines across the country - told by the award-winning reporters who broke the story and featuring major new revelations about high-profile athletes. For years, in the shadowy reaches of the world of sport, there were rumors that some of our nation's greatest athletes were using steroids, human growth hormone, and other drugs to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder. But as track stars like Marion Jones blazed their way to Olympic medals and sluggers such as Mark McGwire brought fans back to baseball with stratospheric home runs, sports officials, the media, and fans looked past the rumors and cheered on the stars to ever-higher levels of performance. Then, in December 2004, after more than fifteen months of relentless reporting, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams broke the story of the Bay Area Lab Co-operative, a tiny nutritional supplement company that according to sworn testimony was supplying elite athletes, including baseball MVP Jason Giambi, with banned drugs. The stories, exposing rampant cheating at the highest levels of athletics, shocked the nation as sports heroes were brought low and their records were tainted. The exposes led to Congressional hearings on baseball's drug problems, and a revived effort to purge the U.S. Olympic movement of drug cheats. Now, in Game of Shadows, Fainaru-Wada and Williams tell the complete story of BALCO and the investigation that has shaken the foundations of the sporting world. They reveal how an obscure, self-proclaimed nutritionist, Victor Conte, became a steroid svengali to multi-millionaire athletes desperate for a competitive edge, and how he created superstars with his potent cocktails of miracle drugs. They expose the international web of coaches and trainers who funneled athletes to BALCO, and how the drug cheats stayed a step ahead of the testing agencies and the law. They detail how an aggressive IRS investigator doggedly gathered evidence until Conte and his co-conspirators were brought to justice. And at the center of the story is the biggest star of them all, Barry Bonds, the muscle-bound MVP outfielder of the San Francisco Giants whose suspicious late-career renaissance has him threatening Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. Shocking, revelatory, and page-turning, Game of Shadows casts light into the shadows of American sport to reveal the dark truths at the heart of the game today.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
When GAME OF SHADOWS arrived on the scene, the clamor was to know about Barry Bonds and what, if any, illegal drugs he took to fuel his pursuit of Major League Baseball’s all time home run record. To a lesser degree people wanted to know why. Those questions are answered painstakingly throughout the book. In fact, the presentation of Barry Bonds in this book is so brutal, like a villain from a penny dreadful novel, that if it wasn’t true he would have sued. Truth be told, I have been a Bonds hater since he signed with the San Francisco Giants---rival to my LA Dodgers. But even I often blushed at the broad strokes of distasteful behavior that he is shown to be capable of. That, however, is the prurient part of the book. What makes GAME OF SHADOWS a book of historical note is the depth it plumbs into the entire performance enhancing drug culture. The book was criticized upon arrival for not being all about Barry Bonds—as if the rest of it were just padding. Bond’s outsized personality is used to shine a light on the rest of what was going on at the time. Tempting to just use the term steroids when talking about performance enhancing drugs as a short cut, most people have some sense of what those are, but the book reveals that the many different drugs used come from many different places and medical disciplines. Following the drugs from creation to distribution to use is fascinating and the extent to which they have permeated the sports world—including to a very large degree our Olympic athletes who seemingly should have held themselves to a higher standard—is astonishing. Basically an extended newspaper article, the book remains fresh and lively throughout by deftly dropping one story line for another so by the end there is the feeling of having followed the story for months and staying on top of it the whole time. Don’t be scared off if you are not a baseball fan. Or a sports fan. The book reminds us that we may think we have air tight characters, but one wrong decision and we sink like stones. ( )
  KurtWombat | Sep 15, 2019 |
Outstanding journalism, ruined all my baseball myths and sunk my modern day heros, but excellent book. ( )
  jimifenway | Feb 2, 2016 |
The BALCO steroid raid was a local headline news "event" for a number of months. I have to admit that I tuned most of it out. Around the same time as the trial I read and enjoyed The Secret Language of Baseball which among its analysis of hand signals had some chapters on previous baseball scandals. So when Game of Shadows was offered up at the local BookCrossing meeting last year, I had to give it a read.

Baseball while an entertaining sport to play and to watch is not all "Mom and apple pie" pure as some would like to believe. Heck, I'd argue that neither is "Mom and apple pie" but I digress. It's a highly competitive team sport that produces a lot more misses than hits. Those team members who can consistently hit the ball well end up being the stars of the sport. With stardom comes the big bucks. Baseball has a history of turning a blind eye to a lot of the underhanded things players and teams do get ahead in the game.

The BALCO thing is just the latest and most recent public example. Game of Shadows covers the people involved in the trial (owners of BALCO, the managers, the players, the investigators, and so forth). It is set up in three equal parts. The first introduces all the "players", the second piece is the events that lead up to the trial and the final third is the trial itself. The trial piece is by far the most interesting piece of the book and I wish more time had been given to it and perhaps to the investigation. ( )
  pussreboots | Jan 18, 2015 |
Various anecdotes and bits of back-story on the infamous "steroids scandal" that rocked professional baseball in the early 21st century. The narration was very good: the reader seemed genuinely enthused about the text, and that helped to hold my interest. The book was an interesting snapshot of a time just before Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record. Sadly, the drug abuse and cheating continue today. ( )
  SharronA | Feb 5, 2013 |
This book reveals secrets not only about baseball but the olympics. Its strange to think that people that i have looked up to are now being testified against and are being banned from their sports that they were so good at and they are being stripped of their medals and championships and all their achievments that they didnt deserve.
  newfieldreads | Feb 8, 2010 |
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Mark Fainaru-Wadaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Williams, Lancemain authorall editionsconfirmed
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The complete inside story of the shocking steroids scandal that made headlines across the country - told by the award-winning reporters who broke the story and featuring major new revelations about high-profile athletes. For years, in the shadowy reaches of the world of sport, there were rumors that some of our nation's greatest athletes were using steroids, human growth hormone, and other drugs to run faster, jump higher, and hit harder. But as track stars like Marion Jones blazed their way to Olympic medals and sluggers such as Mark McGwire brought fans back to baseball with stratospheric home runs, sports officials, the media, and fans looked past the rumors and cheered on the stars to ever-higher levels of performance. Then, in December 2004, after more than fifteen months of relentless reporting, San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams broke the story of the Bay Area Lab Co-operative, a tiny nutritional supplement company that according to sworn testimony was supplying elite athletes, including baseball MVP Jason Giambi, with banned drugs. The stories, exposing rampant cheating at the highest levels of athletics, shocked the nation as sports heroes were brought low and their records were tainted. The exposes led to Congressional hearings on baseball's drug problems, and a revived effort to purge the U.S. Olympic movement of drug cheats. Now, in Game of Shadows, Fainaru-Wada and Williams tell the complete story of BALCO and the investigation that has shaken the foundations of the sporting world. They reveal how an obscure, self-proclaimed nutritionist, Victor Conte, became a steroid svengali to multi-millionaire athletes desperate for a competitive edge, and how he created superstars with his potent cocktails of miracle drugs. They expose the international web of coaches and trainers who funneled athletes to BALCO, and how the drug cheats stayed a step ahead of the testing agencies and the law. They detail how an aggressive IRS investigator doggedly gathered evidence until Conte and his co-conspirators were brought to justice. And at the center of the story is the biggest star of them all, Barry Bonds, the muscle-bound MVP outfielder of the San Francisco Giants whose suspicious late-career renaissance has him threatening Hank Aaron's all-time home run record. Shocking, revelatory, and page-turning, Game of Shadows casts light into the shadows of American sport to reveal the dark truths at the heart of the game today.

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